By Tim Montgomerie
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Previous Governments were accused of hiding the true level of unemployment by moving people off the jobless figures and assigning them for receipt of invalidity or similar benefits. The Coalition is moving in the other direction – independently assessing those in receipt of incapacity benefit and moving them back into the labour market.
The early results are now in and they confirm what Conservatives have long suspected – 71% of all IB claimants are either immediately available for work or will be available with intensive training and support:
Employment Minister Chris Grayling told the BBC:
"We know that for many it will be a long haul back to work but it's much better to help them on the journey than to leave them on benefits for the rest of their lives."
In the London Evening Standard he writes:
"On current projections, we expect around half a million people to start looking for work again. We can either leave them to atrophy on benefits. Or we can help them back to something better. We have made our choice. And the first results show we were right."
Benefit claimants will be allowed to appeal the judgment on their eligibility so the percentages for those able to stay on incapacity-type benefits may increase somewhat. The Government will, however, now be able to make long-term savings from the £9 billion incapacity benefits budget. If the benefit is restored in public esteem it should also mean greater public support for helping the genuinely incapacitated more generously.